New Firefox 3.0 preview goes 'Places'

The latest alpha release is available for Windows, Mac and Linux users

Mozilla has released the next-to-last planned alpha edition of Firefox 3.0, the first preview to include a major chunk of the browser's revamped bookmark and history tool.

Alpha 5 of Firefox 3.0, which still carries the codename Gran Paradiso, includes the bookmarks portion of Places, the feature that at one time was slated to appear in Firefox 2.0. Last year, however, Mozilla yanked the searchable bookmark-browser history from 2.0 and said it would appear in 2007's Version 3.0.

Because Places uses the open-source SQLite database engine to store and retrieve bookmarks and history entries, it's incompatible with earlier Firefox editions' bookmarks. Mozilla warned users to back up existing bookmarks before testing the alpha. "There are rough edges [to Places]; please wear your hard hat at all times," a warning urged. "Remember that the UI is still being designed, and don't be surprised to find some regressions, both functional and in performance."

Alpha 6, which is to debut June 29, will bake in the remainder of Places, including indexing of bookmarks and history logs, tagging and metadata search.

The alpha also includes a new crash reporting system to help Mozilla sort out problems, a new JavaScript-based Password Manager and several improvements to the Mac OS X edition. Windows, Mac and Linux versions of Alpha 5 can be downloaded from the Mozilla site.

Also on Wednesday, Mozilla spelled out what Firefox 1.5 users will soon see when the auto-update mechanism is activated in the next few weeks. Users will choose whether to update the browser to 2.0, delay the update or permanently reject it. Firefox 1.5 support ended last month, and Mozilla is trying to get all users to upgrade to the current browser.

According to the Firefox 3.0 production schedule, Alpha 5 was several days late. One more alpha is planned before Beta 1 debuts July 31.

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